Sunday, April 29, 2012

The half-moon was visible for the entire day here in CT.  What more needs to be said?  It should be visible for some portion of the day everyday except during a new moon or full moon, if you know where to look.  However, some days the reflected light of the moon passes through the scattered blue light of Earth's atmosphere better than others.  For more on this click on the link: Why do we see the moon.

300 mm

    55 mm

More lunar pics as well as other photos by the blog creator (ME) can be seen: Pics

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder and what is there use in cooking and baking?  These questions were answered in the latest Common Formative Assessment (CFA) that our chemistry students took.  CFAs are one of the latest tools that our district is requiring we do.  Ideally they are supposed to drive education by assessing students learning on topics before testing them to gage their understanding.  We used to call these quizzes but in the new age of teaching we have a new acronym.  The experts tell us that CFAs should be designed to be shorter than quizzes and may be verbal.  However, we have to keep track of the results in a predetermined format is very time consuming.  Fortunately Chris Pagliaro, a social studies teacher at SHS, made it easier to keep track.  In addition, we are now doing CFAs to assess reading comprehension in all of our classes - CFAs on Steroids!  Why do all this?  To prove we are teaching of course.  If my tone sounds like I do not really care for these, you should hear what my students have to say about them.  Enough of my rant about CFAs.  Besides, I actually learned something about baking from from developing this latest reading CFA with Tony Ciccone.

The article we used for the reading CFA was from our textbook, Chemistry - Matter and Change, McGraw-Hill 2008.  The article, Acid-Base Reactions on the Rise, describes the two questions from the first sentence of this post.  Baking soda and baking powder are both considered be leavening agents.  A leavening agent is an ingredient that causes batter to rise during cooking or baking.  Baking soda is composed of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) which is a base.  When mixed with an acid, even a weak acid, reacts to form bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2).  When using baking soda for cooking, it is usually added last to the batter.  That is because the other ingredients are often acidic and will produce the carbon dioxide bubbles as soon as the baking soda is added to the batter.  Mildly acidic ingredients used in cooking and baking include vinegar, chocolate, honey, lemon juice, milk and many others.  Some batters, however, are mildly acidic and, therefore, must be made acidic.  This is where baking powder comes in.  It turns out baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and a dry acid (cream of tartar - potassium bitartrate or acid of calcium phosphate - calcium dihydrogen phosphate) and starch.  So that's it!

Friday, April 13, 2012

I attended an AP Chemistry short course offered by the College Board a couple of summers ago at Saint Joseph's College of Maine.  The instructor, Cheri Smith, from Yale Secondary School in British Columbia was phenomenal.  One of the things she shared with us was a Free Response question history (shown below).  I have been adding to it.  What is helpful is that the types of questions are defined, thus making it useful for predicting what the questions will be like on the new test.  No one really knows what they will ask for sure, but it is fun trying to guess and the students have fun trying to guess as well.  Not to mention getting them engaged.    

The yellow highlighted boxes indicate questions we have gone over.  Two different versions of the Free Response session are given.  This was started in 2002 as a result ______?  That is a question I ask my students.  Most of us in our forties did not have such things when we were young.

I have attached a link to where the Free Response History spreadsheet can be downloaded.  Feel free to use it and add to it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Birds Of Prey

Birds of Prey

DSC_0026_01 by kurt zeppetello
DSC_0026_01, a photo by kurt zeppetello on Flickr.

On Saturday April 7, 2012 the Webb Mountain Discovery Zone in Monroe, CT held their annual Egg Hunt for children.  A very different egg hunt than most egg hunts as eggs are colored to resemble wild avian eggs and are hidden along the many trails in the Discovery Zone.  Following the Egg Hunt was a demonstration by the Connecticut Audubon Society.  Three Birds of Prey were displayed: 1) Broad-winged Hawk, 2) Peregrine Falcon, and  a 3) Barn Owl (additional pics).  All three of these birds were injured in some way and, therefore, would not survive in the wild.  All three of these birds have interesting stories to tell and I recommend visiting the Audubon Society to learn more about these and the many other birds in CT.  Great job by Webb Mountain Discovery Zone.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I set up some online flash cards for the solutions unit that I am currently going over with my Chemistry classes.  I have had positive feedback from the students so far, in fact some of them found them on my website before I announced it to the class.  I used a platform I hadn't used before, Quizlet, to create the Flashcards.  Many of the students were familiar Quizlet which makes it more appealing.  Our Technology Integration Specialist, Mike Oberdick, recommended this site and provided a good review on his blog.  Thanks Mike!